The sun shines through stained glass windows depicting the construction of Southwark Cathedral August 8, 2003, in London, England.

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­Making stained glass is an ancient art that can be traced back to the early Egyptians. Although the first colored glass may have been used as jewelry or even currency, we probably know the art form best from seeing stained glass in the windows of churches. These windows are really paintings that use light, glass and a metal framework to create a design.

The earliest stained glass windows were created for the Roman Catholic Church, and often told Bible stories in pictures. This was at a time when most people couldn't read, so these luminous paintings were one of the few representations of the glory and transcendent nature of their spiritual beliefs. At a time before television, radio or even pictures painted on canvas, stained glass windows wer­e probably one of the most dramatic, instructive and important works of art most people were exposed to.

­Many of these ancient masterpieces have been lost as a result of religious upheavals and political strife, but many still remain, like the stained glass windows at Chartres Cathedral in France, or at Canterbury Cathedral in England.

Changes in taste and innovations in glassmaking hav­e made working with stained glass easier than ever before. Because colored glass is now cheaper and good designs and tutorials are easy to find, the hobby is steadily gaining in popularity. With some practice, patience and a few important tools, creating art with colored glass is a hobby that's available to almost everyone.

In the next section, we'll discuss the turbulent history of stained glass.

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